Getting Involved in Campus Life
byJordana Weiss

Getting-involved-in-college--cover
Even though it may go by quickly, attending university, college or another post-secondary education program is a major milestone in a young person’s life. For many people, this is the first time that they’ve been out of state or abroad, moved away from home, cooked for themselves, or made new friends outside of high school. Large classes, city campuses or busy dorms are where some people naturally thrive, but for others, making the leap into a bigger school can be intimidating. Transitioning from high school to college can be difficult at first, but taking part in on-campus life by participating in extra-curricular activities within your school can help the transition into the first months of school.

Getting involved in campus activities can also provide a support network throughout your college years- joining a club is a great way to make friends, as you are immediately united by a common interest. On-campus activities are also a great way to learn new skills in a less formal environment than a classroom. Even if you haven’t met them yet, your college is full of passionate and talented people who are just waiting to share their knowledge with you. Being in a club, on a committee, or taking part in sports by being on a team is also a great form of stress relief from the busy days of classes that come with college.

Even after your first year of school, there are many benefits to being a part of an on-campus activity. When applying for your first jobs out of school, many people who are not able to work throughout university or college often find themselves staring down at an empty resume. Being able to list experiences or skills gained through a campus club or committee will give you a step up when applying for jobs after college. Depending on the size of the college, many clubs and campus organizations are able to organize major events that are publicized not only throughout the college campus, but all across the city. These leadership and organizational skills are truly valuable to be able to list on a resume, and may help you land your dream job after college.

Here are a few of the major types of on campus activities that you can get involved in.

Student Government
If you want to make a positive impact within your faculty, or even school-wide, this is the activity for you. In most schools, each faculty will be represented by an elected student committee. In addition, there is usually a larger student committee that represents the student body as a whole. By talking to your current student leaders or representatives, you can get a sense of the responsibilities that come with being elected. Their responsibilities often include advocating for students in your faculty or school, organizing events, and supporting the administration.

Interest-based Clubs
Founded based on a common interest, these clubs are perfect for people who know exactly what it is that they are passionate about. Glee clubs, Anime and Manga societies, Classical Music club, French students society- these are all examples of interest based clubs. Schools will often have complete listing of all of the clubs that they offer students on the college website. If you don’t see one that you are interested in, why not start your own? At many schools, starting a club is a simple matter of gathering a group of like-minded people, and filling out a few forms to legitimize the group. Interest-based clubs are also great for people who aren’t yet sure what they’re interested in. Many large schools boast a huge number of these types of clubs, and you can try a different one every week.

Greek Societies
Greek societies are social organizations that bring together like-minded individuals for networking and friendship. Identifying themselves with Greek letters (like Phi Nu or Sigma Kappa), these organizations are split along gender lines (fraternities and sororities), and focus on creating networking opportunities for women and men. Once a person pledges into a greek organization, they will remain within the organization for their whole undergraduate career. Often fraternities and sororities are organized along the same lines as other clubs- focused around academics, service, and professional lines, and can seek to bring together men or women who are like-minded towards a common career path, or academic focus.

Athletics
This is the most self-explanatory campus activity. If you’re interested in improving your skills in sports, join a team! Most schools will have a variety of different sports to participate in, ranging from basketball, football and hockey to table tennis, water polo, or even quidditch. There is truly a sport for anyone who wants to play. Most schools will also support a variety of levels of each major sport. If you love playing hockey, or baseball, but don’t have the abilities or commitment to join the varsity squad, often schools will create different leagues that players can join based on their skill level and time availability. Playing sports at a varsity level is a huge commitment, but can also open doors to potential opportunities after graduation. However, even if you’re on the ‘D-League’team, being on a sports team will improve your physical fitness and provide a fun environment away from studying.

Social Action Clubs
The perfect club for those who want to make a positive impact both on campus, and in the wider world around them. These clubs support larger not-for-profit or charity organizations by implementing or fundraising for their programs on campus. Campus clubs can be affiliated with organizations like Amnesty International, Free the Children, Doctors Without Borders, or any other large-scale organization that needs student support. Often, social action clubs will organize fundraisers, plan awareness raising campaigns, or give speeches supporting their chosen organization. Sometimes college groups also take students abroad to volunteer internationally. Getting involved in a social action club can be as easy as attending one of their fundraisers and asking an organizer for more information. Often, if you don’t have time every week, you can join the organizing committee of a specific event and help out in that way, instead of committing time every single week.

The Arts
If you’ve ever wanted to perform onstage, or assist in the creation of new theatre, dance, or music, this is the activity for you. By joining a theatre, music, or dance organization, college students can get a taste of what a career in that specific performing art is like. Often, school organizations mimic the structure of a professional organization- clubs can be headed by an artistic committee of students who decide which shows will be performed, and who will be hired to work on each production. Students can choose to be involved in the decision making process as part of the artistic committee, or can simply audition for different shows as they pique their interest. Student productions of plays, musicals, opera and dance have been known to truly push the envelope of modern performing arts, and can be an interesting place to develop your skills onstage. Even if you aren’t studying the arts academically, taking part in extra-curricular performing arts can help you speak and move more confidently, and open you up to different areas of interest that your academic program doesn’t cover.

Religious Groups
As a person grows and matures, discovering a religious faith can be a very important part of their development. Joining an on-campus religious group can help expand your ideas about religion. Maybe you’ve only attended services with your family, or as part of major religious celebrations like Easter, Passover or Ramadan. Joining a campus religious organization can put you in touch with like-minded people who are also in the same season of life as you are. Some people find it very valuable to surround themselves with a community of faith on campus, as a way of keeping up with traditions that they observed at home, or creating new ones that they can celebrate on their own.

Academic Groups
People who often find themselves answering all the questions in a class might consider joining an academic club. Populated by those whose common interests are academic, these clubs often organize tutoring sessions and events like Model UN and Math Games. Clubs like these are also a good place to seek assistance if you feel yourself falling behind in one of their areas of expertise. Often, fellow students in these clubs will offer tutoring hours free of charge to other students in the school.

Campus Media
When you arrive on campus for your first day of college, you may see stacks of newspapers or magazines displayed around the different buildings. These newspapers and magazines, along with television and radio stations, are often fully student run. This is a great place to start if you’re interested in journalism or media. Working with one of the student run media outlets on campus can give you a real sense of what it means to pursue it as a career. It can also help you improve your writing and editing skills. These types of student clubs are incredibly valuable because they give the student population an outlet of their very own. After all, who should be reporting on issues that are important to students if not their fellow students!

The list goes on! If there’s an interest that you have, chances are someone somewhere has formed a campus club focused on that. If the school that you attend doesn’t have one that you’re interested in, why not start your own? College is a great time to explore your interests, and figure out what excites you. Many students use the first year of college to experiment with clubs, but often people find that they burn out quickly, and are unable to keep track of their various commitments. Skip the stress by attending as many meetings as you need to get a sense of each club’s specific focus, then if it’s not something that you want to continue, drop out graciously. It’s more valuable to continue with a few clubs that you are truly passionate about than to flit from club to club. Your after-class time is valuable! By narrowing your focus, you ensure that you’re able to really give all your energy to the clubs that you support. If you are still finding yourself too stressed by all your different activities, try a different approach- many clubs focus on organizing a few events or occasions per year. If you don’t have time to attend club meetings or activities every week, commit yourself to helping out or attending one of these events. That way, you can stay connected to your club without giving up all of your free time.

Many people also find that their club is what keeps them connected to their alma mater after they graduate from college. Often, clubs (especially fraternities and sororities) host reunions for members of their clubs that have graduated in the last 10, 20 or even 50 years! These reunions can be a fun opportunity to meet up with old friends, and network with people who may be in the same field as you.
Whether or not you choose to get involved in campus extra-curricular activities early on in your college time, or wait until you’ve established a routine for yourself, I believe that any college experience can be improved by getting involved in campus life. Focusing too much on studying and not taking any time to discover other things that you enjoy can lead to the discovery at the end of college that what you were studying doesn’t actually make you as happy as you hoped. By taking time to explore different activities, you can ensure that you are making the most out of your college experience. After all, you’ve worked hard to get there! Make sure that your time in college is as fruitful and adventurous as possible, and you can be sure that you’re getting the most out of your college experience.